Rain continues to subdue wildfires in southwest, western Alaska

All the wildfires burning in the Alaska Division of Forestry’s Southwest Area between McGrath and Dillingham have received varying amounts of precipitation over the past three days, moderating fire behavior and reducing the threat to villages and values at risk.

Of the 124,714 acres burned in Alaska as of Sunday morning, 119,115 of those acres has been in the Southwest Area (67,239 acres) and Galena Zone (51,876 acres), a huge area that essentially encompasses the western half of the Alaska from north to south.

There are 27 active fires reported in the Galena Zone and 14 in the Southwest Area, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center on Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks. Those two areas account for 41 of the state’s 57 active fires.

The widespread precipitation has given the 275 firefighters working on fires a reprieve from the hot, dry weather over the area much of the past week.

As of Sunday, there are currently eight staffed fires in the Southwest Area and Galena Zone. The biggest of those fires is the 16,746-acre Pitka Fork Fire burning approximately 60 miles east of McGrath in the Southwest Area.

Here is a rundown of the staffed fires in both areas:

Southwest Area (Alaska Division of Forestry)

• Spruce Creek Fire (#155) – 42 acres, 19 personnel, 30 miles southeast of McGrath. Members of the Nikolai Type 2 Crew continued to grid the fire on Saturday, finding zero hotspots 100 feet in from the fire perimeter. Smoke was observed further in the interior of the fire and personnel will be gridding and mopping up 300 feet in from the perimeter today. The fire was declared contained at the end of shift on Saturday.

Pitka Fork Fire (#160) -16,746 acres, 42 personnel, 60 miles east of McGrath. Minimal fire activity with overcast skies and minimal precipitation overnight was reported. Personnel were moved to different cabins sites to prep those areas and miscellaneous gear was also moved around. Personnel will be doing structure protection, saw work and line construction today.

Bell Creek Fire (#161) – 2,675 acres, 61 personnel, 110 miles southwest of McGrath. The fire is burning within two miles of the village of Crooked Creek on the Kuskokwim River. Fire personnel and the assigned line medic helped assist the community of Crooked Creek with a civilian medical emergency on Saturday. All fire operations were paused, and aircraft were rerouted into Red Devil for most of the second half of the day. In evening, supplies were shuttled into Crooked Creek from Red Devil with a plane and helicopter. No smokes were observed on the fire. Today, personnel will be inserted into the southern edge of the fire to begin direct suppression.

Ball Creek Fire (#164), 13,924 acres, 20 personnel, 75 miles southwest of McGrath. Squads from the Nondalton #2 Type 2 Crew continued scouting structures in the historic mining site of Flat, eight miles east of the fire, to come up with a protection plan if needed.

Black River (#172), 8 acres, 22 personnel, 29 miles southeast of McGrath. The fire received precipitation throughout the night and crews on Saturday continued to mop up and grid the fire.

Galena Zone (Alaska Fire Service)

Deadmans Slough Fire (#162) – 358 acres, 74 personnel, 2 miles south of Anvik. The Grayling Type 2 Crew secured a portion of the left flank 7 feet in while the Chena Interagency Hotshot Crew secured an island at the head of the fire. The hotshots cold trailed and mopped up green fingers along both sloughs, as well as green grid and scouted across the slough for a Monday grid. The fire received light precipitation for 40 percent of the day but no significant wetting rain. The Mountain Village Type 2 Crew was mobilized to the fire Saturday to assist with mop up. The fire is 90 percent contained.

Toik Hill Fire (#185) — 13,456 acres, 25 personnel, 23 miles east of St. Michael. The fire is being staffed by a squad from the Midnight Sun Interagency Hotshot Crew and 14 smokejumpers. On Saturday, the fire perimeter was 40 percent active , smoldering and is reported to be “very fingery.” The fire received light precipitiation for several hours. The fire is heading east toward a handful of allotments and the goal is to secue the perimeter primarily on the left flank. Two water-scooping planes were used to drop water active portions of the fire and two helicopters were used to shuttle crews around the fire.

Nonvalnuk Fire (#189) — 8,864 acres, 6 personnel, 16 miles south of St. Michael. A squad of Midnight Sun hotshots worked hotspots along the perimeter on Saturday, exhausting all areas of heat and no smokes were observed. A containment time will be determined as the squad is shuttled to another fire today.

About Alaska Division of Forestry

Alaska Division of Forestry website: http://forestry.alaska.gov/ Mission: The Alaska Division of Forestry proudly serves Alaskans through forest management and wildland fire protection. The Wildland Fire and Aviation Program provides safe, cost-effective and efficient fire protection services and related fire and aviation management activities to protect human life and values on State, private and municipal lands. The wildland fire program cooperates with other wildland fire agencies on a statewide, interagency basis.

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